Windows PCs seem to always come with additional software you probably don’t want. PC manufacturers are paid to include this stuff, so they make a profit — but it means your new PC starts slower than it could and you have to content with nag screens and other clutter.
I remember buying my first laptop after having built my own PCs for many years. The culture shock was extreme — no more fresh, fast Windows environment. Instead, the system tray was full of icons, nag screens and a long boot time.
Unless you go out of your way to pick up a Microsoft Signature PC from a Microsoft Store, you’ll probably get bloatware — also known as “crapware” or just junk software — on your new PC. Microsoft also charges $99 to turn your PC into a “Signature” version — in other words, removing all that junk software for you. But you can do it yourself.
Uninstall It From the Control Panel
Most junk software can just be uninstalled from the standard “Uninstall or change a program” Control Panel. Just head to the Control Panel on your new computer, look at the list of installed programs, then start uninstalling anything you don’t want. If you never cleaned the junk off your computer, you’ll find the preinstalled junk programs mixed in with the software you’ve installed since you got the computer.
If you’re not sure what to uninstall — and knowing what to uninstall is the biggest challenge — use your favorite search engine to find out what each program does and whether to uninstall it. Generally, keep hardware drivers and other useful hardware utilities. Uninstall trial software you don’t plan on using.
If the bloatware is in the form of new Windows 8 apps (the ones in the modern environment rather than the desktop), you won’t be able to uninstall them from the Control Panel, Instead, just right-click or long-press their live tiles and select “Uninstall.”
Use a Software Tool
Programs dedicated to helping you get rid of this junk include PC Decrapifier or Decrap my Computer. Both are free. They’ll scan your system, identify known-bad programs you probably won’t want and automatically uninstall them for you. This speeds up the uninstallation process and helps you decide what to remove. Be careful when using the automatic option in Decrap my Computer, as it may remove useful software you’ve installed yourself — if this is the case, use the manual method.
These tools aren’t perfect, of course. Different PCs come with different bits of bloatware, so these tools won’t catch everything. You may still want to use the Control Panel to clean things up later.
The Geek Method of Choice for freshening up a new PC is to wipe away its Windows installation by reinstalling Windows from scratch. You then install the appropriate hardware drivers and utilities you actually want by downloading them from the computer manufacturer’s website. This method is guaranteed to get you a nice, fresh system. It can be a bit involved, especially if you don’t have Windows installation media lying around.
Normal computer users get rid of this stuff just by uninstalling it normally, but geeks will often want to do a traditional Windows reinstall so they can ensure all the junk software is gone.
Note that you can’t just use the “Refresh your PC” or “Reset your PC” features to get rid of this junk software on Windows 8 or 8.1, as PC manufacturers install the software into the “recovery image.” In other words, the junk software will come back when you refresh or reset your PC, giving you a truly fresh-from-the-factory experience. You need to go through this process if you ever reset your PC’s operating system to its factory defaults.
You can also avoid this junk software by building your own PC — traditionally, PC geeks have built their own PCs and haven’t had to deal with bloatware. But, with the popularity of laptops, practically all Windows users now have to deal with this junk software. There’s no realistic way to build your own laptop, so we’re all in this together.
Image Credits: Shawn Collins on Flickr, Macecraft Software